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Archive for December, 2012

I live in a city that has a fair amount of good local restaurants, at least for our size. We have some awesome BBQ joints. Several great burger and hot dog shacks. And a handful of “family” restaurants. And not one, not one, can give me a good fry. Not one. It boggles my mind.

We have two awesome hot dog—great, plump, salty, juicy dogs. One place serves a killer Chicago dog, the other, a little more creative, but has a delicious chili-dog. Both places are tied for the worst fries on the planet. I could tie those bad boys in knots. Probably frozen, fried once, barely salted, blech.

Every other place is the same. I just want the fries done right: crispy outside, steamy fluffy inside. I want it to snap when I bend it in half.

I rarely say that there is a right way and a wrong way to do much. But, let me tell you, I have come to believe there is a right way to make fries, and it’s relatively simple.

First let me tell you, don’t use frozen fries. Get yourself some Russets. If you’re a restaurant, get a commercial fry cutter. You can get one for $100 from Amazon. If you’re serious about your food, you can get a really good one for $200. It’s not that much more work, and the outcome is considerably better. I’d also keep the skin on.

Next, you have to soak these bad boys in water for at least an hour. This gets rid of a bunch of starch which is one of the things that help get the fries crispy. The starch creates sugar. Too much sugar keeps the fries limp. You have to get those fries dry also. Otherwise, it’s going to spurt the oil at you.

The oil is also important. You need one that has a high smoke point, like peanut.

Here is the main thing. You have to fry them twice. That’s right. Twice. I think that’s one of the main problems. Most people don’t do that.

Why fry twice? Honestly, I’m sure there is some funky scientific answer to this. All I know is, if you fry it once, you get soggy fries.

The first fry is done at 325° for about four or five minutes. This basically gets the thing cooked. I think it’s for the middle, but I’m not sure. Drain them on some paper towels.

The second fry occurs at 375°, or 400° if you’re a kitchen samurai. This one makes it golden brown and delicious. Again, I’m not sure how, I just know that second fry is the magical part.

Take them out, drain on paper towels and salt. Or, if you are particularly interested in the best of the fry world, salt and pepper the ketchup or mayo you are dipping them in. That way the salt doesn’t get the chance to fall off the fry.

Now I just wish my favorite joints read my blog.

Alas.

I had a friend ask if I was gong to blog about Newtown, Connecticut. Honestly, I don’t know, even as I’m writing this.

What is there to say that won’t sound trite or allow too much of myself to bubble into the blogosphere?

I have two boys, both under four, who I love more than anything. And essentially I have no control over whether I see them at the end of the day or not.

It has always been that way. It will always be that way. We are just able to delude ourselves that we have more control than we do. At least until these things happen and show us how small and powerless we really are, that every moment is a gift.

Isn’t that enough?

Well, crockpot season has hit and I couldn’t be happier. I love my crockpot. But I admit to being in a crockpot rut. Don’t get me wrong, I love my roasts and chilies, but I’m pretty sure that the wife has gotten enough of them.

Well, this season I am breaking out, baby! I’m planning on a new crockpot a week. Each Sunday I will embrace and prepare a new and hopefully funky recipe.

My first foray into the funky footwork was a doozy. It is so good, I have dreamed about it after eating it. I’m serious. I hope you try it.

This is my variation on a recipe from Better Homes & Gardens. They use couscous, but I used a wild rice blend.

Crock Pot Moroccan Short Ribs

Ingredients

THE RUB
1 tablespoon dried thyme, crushed
1 tablespoon dried cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 1/2 pounds beef short ribs, bones in
olive oil

2 cups beef broth (plus one to deglaze)
1 16-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
1 large onion, cut into thin wedges
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into thin wedges
2 medium carrots diced
1 medium sweet potato diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dried, washed lentils (or better 1 pkg of Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils)

Directions

Mix all your dry rub ingredients together and rub all over the short ribs. Keep your short ribs in the slabs, or cut the slab in half to help the browning or the crockpot accommodate them.

Get an iron on skillet medium. Put enough oil in to just coat the bottom and put your short ribs in flesh side down. Let this brown for about five minutes. Turn it over to the bone side and brown for three to four minutes.

While the ribs are browning, put everything else (except one cup of the broth) in the crockpot and give it a good stir. Go ahead and turn your pot on high.

When the ribs are fully browned lay into the crockpot and deglaze the skillet with the last cup of broth. Pour the tasty deglazed brown-bits over the ribs and put on the lid.

If you’re home, I would let it go high for two hours then turn it low for four. Otherwise, you can leave it low for eight to ten hours.

You can tell it’s done when you pull a bone and it the meat pulls away.

When it’s done take out the meat, remove the bone and chop the meat.

Serve the veggies over rice or couscous with the meat on top.

This is a delicious recipe!

 

Well, we had Banana Grandma’s funeral. It wasn’t as Banana Grandma-ish as I had hoped, but there were moments.

First, let me tell you that I send the previous post, “Yes, We Have No Bananas,” to my grandmother’s pastor, a tall Southern Baptist from Baylor in Texas. He wanted family to send stuff, so I did.

Before the service I heard him ask my father if he could read a letter that was confusing him. I had assumed that he wouldn’t read my letter anyway, so I thought nothing of it.

A little bit later, while my wife and I were in the toddler room getting my mother-in-law situated with the kids the minister came down and said to me, “I finally found out what your grandmother’s last name was.”

I said, “Which one?” knowing that she has had several last names.

He leaned into me and said, “Dildo.” Then he turned and walked down the hall. That was pretty good, and he won me over with that. He read my letter in full.

My father eulogized her with about a thirty-minute eulogy. It was really good and hit all the right emotional notes.

They played a recording of my niece singing the Carpenters’ “Top of the Word,” which caused the requisite sideways glances from non-family mourners. My niece sang the second song live, and it was written by my ex-sister-in-law, specifically for this funeral. She couldn’t finish it, which was also a beautiful moment.

The final Banana-Grandmaesque moment of the funeral proper actually came as her own words. A young lady, the youth pastor from the church, had spent a considerable time with my grandmother over the last two years. She spoke quite lovingly of my grandmother, finishing her testimonial with a line my grandmother used to like to say her: “Go out and spread the Word, you little virgin.”

That was my grandmother. She was like a Confederate General, able to mix the oddly profane with the sacred. And no matter how much she layered on the bullshit, the nasty jibes, and histrionics, there was always a depth of sentimental nostalgia and fondness that seemed to blunt the corners and round the edges of her often acerbic spirit.

I will miss her.

 

Hey, gang, sorry for the lapse. Got slammed last week. Been a bit down this week and getting domestic, so I took a week off. I will be back on Tuesday.

Thanks. Jason